Hezekiah was a pretty cool king. The previous king, having powerful allies, had incorporated the religion of his allies into Jerusalem’s Temple, including idol worship, and eventually closed the Temple. Upon becoming king, Hezekiah’s first acts included restoring the Temple and cleansing his country of idol worship.
Then he got deathly sick. And Isaiah, a big-deal man of god for the last four kings, came to check it out and reported, “Sorry pal, get your house in order, ’cause you’re not sticking around.” [Isa. 38:1, heavily paraphrased—I encourage you to go read the real version.] Hezekiah was, understandably, upset, and now had no recourse but to confront his mortality honestly. But while open-heartedly bewailing his pain and tragedy, he had two realizations: (1) that God doesn’t sustain sin [Ibid 17], and (2)
“The dead don’t thank you [God],
and choirs don’t sing praises from the morgue.
Those buried six feet under
don’t witness to your faithful ways.
It’s the living—live men, live women—who thank you,
just as I’m doing right now.” [Ibid 18-19]
These realizations: that sin is transitory, and that life is what expresses God’s glory, may have fueled his protest against his death-sentence, knowing what God preserves and what He doesn’t:
“Remember how I’ve lived my life. I’ve lived faithfully in your presence, lived out of a heart that was totally yours.” [Ibid 3]
Isaiah was already on his way out, but God didn’t even let Isaiah leave the room [II Kings 20:4] before having him turn around and promise recovery, health, and life to Hezekiah!
Now Hezekiah’s inner sense had been keen enough to protest that this apparent story of sickness and death of a righteous life didn’t fit how God ran the show, but at this point, having received conflicting diagnoses, he felt like he could use some assurance, so he asked Isaiah for some. Isaiah said sure: God can move the time on the sundial by 10 minutes as a sign, a promise. Hezekiah pointed out that the time on the sundial was always moving forward, so God’d better move it back 10 minutes, just to make it clear it was Him. And, indeed, so it happened [Ibid 11].
Three days letter, Hezekiah was not dead but well. He went on to build up Jerusalem, defeat (through reliance on God, without touching a weapon) a huge invading Assyrian army, and oversee great economic growth in his kingdom.
So next time it seems like everything’s (or anything) is going downhill, think of Hezekiah. His keen sense of God’s truth can be yours, too. Take a moment to honestly confront your situation. Know God isn’t behind your fleeting faults, but that God’s glory is (and must be) expressed in your immortal goodness.
And, if need be, ask Him to prove it.
He loves you.
This story, a scientific explanation of it, as well as a few others, make up a Bible sermon on “mortals and immortals” that will be given at our church this Sunday morning, at 10:35 (EDT). We’ll also sing some praises and pray a bit together. It may be too damp out, so we’re going to meet inside at 687 Centre St. in JP, but feel free to call in at (605) 475-4000 x636128# if that’s a little far.
Grant and jpchurch